Elite Scholars Prepare for 4-Year Scholarly Voyage

18 Uniquely Accomplished Students Chosen for 2009 McDermott Group

June 1, 2009

If “cream of the academic crop” describes the entering cohort of freshmen at UT Dallas, the phrase rings especially true for those entering the University through the prestigious Eugene McDermott Scholars Program

Among the nine men and nine women who will make up the program’s 2009 class, there are six valedictorians and one salutatorian, and the group hails from the top 2 percent of their respective high school classes.  

The 18 — from Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey and Texas — averaged 2230 on the three-part SAT.

“We are delighted and honored to welcome these outstanding students to the McDermott Program and to the University family,” Program Director Molly F. Seeligson remarked of the group. “We look forward to the positive impact that they will have on our campus and in our larger community, and to seeing their growth and development as a result of the experiences our program affords them.”

Now in its ninth year, the McDermott Scholars program attracts academically talented scholars who are leaders in their high schools and communities. With an emphasis on four years of leadership and community service, the program was born of the belief that education should blend academics, culture, experiential learning and travel.

As McDermott Scholars, the students will have educational expenses — including tuition and fees, and stipends for living expenses, travel and books — covered for the next four years.  They also will participate in a wide variety of cultural and educational enrichment experiences.

In fact, each year of the McDermott Scholars Program is carefully designed to incorporate various aspects of experiential learning:

  • Freshman year includes an orientation trip, weekly seminars with notable University administrators, faculty and staff and civic leaders, and a trip to Washington, D.C., for an immersion in national politics and business.
  • During their sophomore year, the scholars will experience leadership via such outlets as Student Government, and exposure to state and local political leadership opportunities via a trip to the state’s capital in Austin.
  • Junior year is focused on study abroad and/or internships.
  • Senior year includes a class project in which the group is challenged to seek out an area where they can give back to society.  During their senior year, the scholars also explore the next phase of their life, be it furthering their education, international travel or searching for a job.

The McDermott Scholars Program was made possible by a $32 million gift from Margaret McDermott, wife of the late Eugene McDermott, one of the co-founders of Texas Instruments.  McDermott and two of his TI co-founders, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson, both of whom also are deceased, founded the research institution that in 1969 became UT Dallas.

2009 McDermott Scholars
Those selected as McDermott Scholars for the 2009 entering class are:

 

ARKANSAS

Maija Wallace
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & the Arts, Hot Springs

After graduating from high school in 2008, Wallace spent a year studying abroad in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.  While in school, she was secretary and treasurer in her student government, was a feature writer with the student newspaper, was a founding member of the student council and was involved in swing dancing club, knitting club, National Honor Society, and theater, music and film.  She also volunteered at a local animal shelter and led tours at her boarding school, sat on the County Youth Advisory Council and graded papers for a Spanish distance education class.  Wallace plans to major in international political economy.

INDIANA

Ben Delay
Edgewood High School, Ellettsville

Delay was valedictorian of his graduating class and was a National Merit Finalist.  He lettered in three varsity sports – cross country, swimming and track – and performed with his award-winning local show choir.  Delay worked with faculty and administrators to create his high school honors curriculum.  He was a member of the National Honor Society, was the recipient of his high school’s Superintendent’s Award, a Hoosier Boys State delegate, and the recipient of Western Indiana Conference Academic All-Conference and Most Improved Swimmer award.  He is interested in studying cognitive and computer science and exploring a career in haptic technology.

LOUISIANA

Camden Cornwell
Episcopal School of Acadiana, Broussard

Cornwell was an Advanced Placement scholar, a member of the National Honor Society, a member of his high school’s honor council and was a scholar athlete — including state doubles champion in tennis, captain of the soccer team and member of both the track and cross country teams.  He was a recipient of the Harvard Book Award and volunteered with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, a church worship committee and campus recycling efforts. Cornwell enjoys outdoor activities and drawing, and he plans to study economics. 

NEW JERSEY

Apeksha Saxena
Monroe Township High School, Monroe Township

Saxena was part of the New Jersey Science League and was a member of the National Honor Society.  As a member of the Physician Scientist Training Program — funded by the National Institutes of Health — Saxena spent her summers researching gallstone disease at Drexel University College of Medicine and studying the origin of DNA replication at the National Cancer Institute.  Her volunteer efforts included teaching students to read, write and speak Hindi, independent fundraising for UNICEF, and assisting patients at St. Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey.  During her junior year in high school, Saxena published a book about self-improvement in hopes of making a difference in the lives of others.  She plans to major in biology or biochemistry and hopes to pursue a career in medicine. 

TEXAS

Josh Brumett
Decatur High School, Decatur

Valedictorian of his class and a National Merit Scholar, Brumett served as president of the National Honor Society, was a saxophone leader in both his high school marching band and his local jazz ensemble, was a founding member, spokesperson and co-president of Students for Social Justice, and was a state champion in University Interscholastic League (UIL) ready writing.  He also had lead roles in high school theatre productions and musicals, as well as the robotics team.  Brumett volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and is active in the United Methodist Church.  He is planning on a career in science.

Philip Campbell
Round Rock High School, Round Rock

Campbell was valedictorian of his class, an Eagle Scout and a National Merit Finalist.  He was a section leader in his marching band, a participant in several UIL academic competitions, advancing to a regional competition in computer applications, and was a member of National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta.  In his free time, Campbell enjoys rock climbing, backpacking and canoeing.  He plans to study electrical engineering and is interested in pursuing a career in nanotechnology.

Truc Do
Allen High School, Allen

Do was both valedictorian of her class and a National Merit Finalist.  She tutored for the Eagle Depot, volunteered as a pianist at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church and raised funds for Relay for Life, for St. Jude Catholic Church and for her school’s homecoming.  She is a member of her local Vietnamese-American organization and was member and section leader of violins in the chamber orchestra during her freshman year. As a sophomore, she was captain of her team in the Texas Computer Programming Competition, treasurer of the National Honor Society, and vice president of National Spanish Honor Society.  Do plans to study biochemistry and hopes to pursue a career in research or pediatrics.

Elizabeth Hanacik
Plano Senior High School, Plano

Hanacik served as captain of her volleyball team, vice president of the German Club, lead dancer in her German folk dancing UIL competition, and was a member of the National Honor Society, and the environmental, PEACE and theatre clubs at her high school.  She hopes to work in aerospace engineering and plans to study electrical engineering, mathematical sciences and physics.

Anna Li
Bellaire High School, Bellaire

Li was a National Merit Finalist and member of the National Honor Society.  She was involved with the women’s choir at her school, and was a staff member and section editor of the school newspaper. She was president of her high school International Student Association, served as treasurer of the Christian Student Union, was secretary of both the Ultimate Frisbee Club and Reach Out, and played on her school’s volleyball team.  During her free time, she taught children at a local science museum and organized events for her church youth group.  Li plans to study biochemistry and biology and hopes to become a physician. 

Braeden Mayer
Flower Mound High School, Flower Mound

Student body president at his high school, Mayer was also president of the school’s debate team, was a PTA student representative and Lewisville ISD Student Advisory Board member. He was a prom committee co-chair, vice president of both the International Thespian Society and Hope for Africa, and a leader at his church.  Mayer is a certified as a U.S. Soccer Federation referee and an American Red Cross lifeguard.  He also received the award for Youth Leader of the Year in Denton County.  In his free time, he mentored elementary students, volunteered with teen court and raised money for Hurricane Ike victims.  Mayer hopes to pursue a degree in international political economy and plans to be part of the pre-law program.

Greg McGuire
Cistercian Preparatory School, Irving

McGuire is an Eagle Scout, was a National Merit Commended Student, was captain of his school’s varsity tennis team, was the winner of several math and physics contests at Rice and Texas A&M universities, and was a recipient of the National French Exam Medal of Achievement.  McGuire sings in his church choir and performed at Carnegie Hall with the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  He plans to study arts and technology, computer science and electrical engineering, and hopes to become a civil engineer and architect.

Monica Niewiarowski
Plano West Senior High School, Plano

Fluent in Polish and working on her conversational Spanish, Niewiarowski was vice president of her school’s Spanish Honor Society, was a publicist for the Key Club, a violinist and historian for Plano West String Orchestra, a member of the National Honor Society and the youth group at her church, and a volunteer with the Plano Balloon Festival.  Niewiarowski plans to study international relations and business and hopes to become a lawyer.

Siddharth Nivas
Coppell High School, Coppell

Nivas is the Web master and a member of the board of directors for the Friends of Coppell Nature Park.  He is captain for the Coppell Solar Racing Team and was a member of the Red Jackets – the student ambassadors and leadership corps at his school.  He was a National Honor Society member and part of the Coppell ISD Strategic Planning Committee.  He was an Aerospace Scholar, part of a resident program at NASA Houston, and also was a member of the UT Dallas NanoExplorers summer program.  Nivas is an accomplished saxophonist, known for his Indian classical music performances with Global Rhythms at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  He plans to study engineering with a focus on bio-medical technologies, while incorporating new aspects of nanotechnology.

Andrew Previc
Northside Health Careers High School, San Antonio

Previc was a National Merit Finalist, is an Eagle Scout and was salutatorian of his high school class.  He was a member of the National Honor Society and president of the Spanish honor society.  While in school, he worked with Community Clean-Up, was involved with Mu Alpha Theta, Health Occupations Students of America and Texas Boys State.  He plans to pursue a degree in economics with a minor in mathematics.

Lauren Sechrist
Randall High School, Amarillo

Sechrist was valedictorian of her high school class and also served as senior class president and National Honor Society president.  She lettered in UIL poetry, was awarded “Most Accomplished” in speech and was involved in debate, theatre, RADD/SuperTeam, Students Leading Students, tennis, Key Club and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  She volunteered through mission trips with her local church to help build homes in Mexico and Ecuador, as well as at a camp in New Mexico as a math and reading tutor and with her local food bank.  Sechrist is considering a major in biochemistry or software engineering.

Sachin Shah
Plano Senior High School, Plano

Shah is an Advanced Placement scholar and was president of his school’s debate team.  An accomplished speaker, he reached elimination rounds at nearly every state and national debate tournament he attended and was state champion in impromptu speaking.  In school, he was a member of National Forensic League, Texas Forensic Association, National Honor Society, Sahara Leo Club, Academic World Quest, Young Democrats of America, Spanish Club and Whiz Quiz.  He has volunteered with Amnesty International and served as a coach to aspiring young debaters.  He plans to major in electrical engineering and eventually attend law school.

Saskia Versteeg
Earl Warren High School, San Antonio

Versteeg was valedictorian of her high school class, as well as a National Merit Finalist, National Honor Society president, varsity letterman in soccer, president of the Interact Club, Academic Decathlon team member and a member of Mu Alpha Theta.  She earned Silver and Gold Awards in Girl Scouts, was involved with the Principal’s Leadership Team at her school, has volunteered with Friends of the Great Northwest Library and was a State Qualifier in the Academic Decathlon.  Versteeg is fluent in both English and Dutch and is working on Spanish and German.  She plans to study physics and hopes to become a research scientist.

Maggie Wurzer
St. Agnes Academy, Houston

Wurzer was a National Merit Scholar, a member of the National Honor Society, a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, captain of her school’s engineering team, president of the Oliver Foundation Teen Advisory Board, a member of the Campus Ministry Leadership and Dominican Preaching teams, a student ambassador and member of several student organizations. She also practices piano and harmonica and worked with her local library.  Wurzer plans to major in mechanical engineering.


Media contact: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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2009 McDermott Scholars

 

Josh Brumett   Philip Campbell
Josh Brumett
Decatur High School, Decatur, Texas
  Philip Campbell
Round Rock High School, Round Rock, Texas

Camden Cornwall   Ben Delay
Camden Cornwell
Episcopal School of Acadiana, Broussard, La.
  Ben Delay
Edgewood High School, Ellettsville, Ind.

Truc Do   Elizabeth Hanacik
Truc Do
Allen High School, Allen, Texas


  Elizabeth Hanacik
Plano Senior High School, Plano, Texas

Anna Li   Braeden Mayer
Anna Li
Bellaire High School, Bellaire, Texas
  Braeden Mayer
Flower Mound High School, Flower Mound, Texas

Greg McGuire   Monica Niewiarowski
Greg McGuire
Cistercian Preparatory School, Irving, Texas
  Monica Niewiarowski
Plano West Senior High School, Plano, Texas

Siddharth Nivas   Andrew Previc
Siddharth Nivas
Coppell High School, Coppell, Texas
  Andrew Previc
Northside Health Careers High School, San Antonio

Apeksha Saxena   Lauren Sechrist
Apeksha Saxena
Monroe Township High School, Monroe Township, N.J.

  Lauren Sechrist
Randall High School,
Amarillo, Texas
Sachin Shah   Saskia Versteeg
Sachin Shah
Plano Senior High School, Plano, Texas
  Saskia Versteeg
Earl Warren High School, San Antonio

Maija Wallace   Maggie Wurzer
Maija Wallace
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & the Arts, Hot Springs

  Maggie Wurzer
St. Agnes Academy, Houston

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